I’ve Forgotten How to Backpack

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Before I settled in Medellín to work/study Spanish/mess around on Tinder, I was backpacking South America for five months. In that time I covered nine countries and was solo for all of it (apart from the mega mates that I made en route, obvs).

Over that period of time, I got really bloody good at a lot of the things that you need to be able to do to successfully travel solo. But, I recently set off backpacking again, and after being on the road for just a couple of days it’s quickly become clear that I no longer have a clue what I’m doing. Check it…

Bus Travel in South America

Back in the day (last year), I was pro-level good at sitting still for 24 hours on an overheating/over air-conditioned bus and talking to absolutely nobody for the entire time. But t’other day I had to get a 19-hour bus to the Colombian coast and IT ALMOST KILLED ME. Firstly, I was sad to be leaving Medellín (my new favourite place in the world), so I did what any self-respecting adult would do and had a full meltdown on the bus. Imagine the scene…

  • I was listening to Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’
  • I was staring out the window watching my city fade into the distance
  • I was eating an empanada (I’m always eating an empanada)
  • I was ugly-crying. Like, proper tears in my mouth, snotty crying

Secondly, I also found that I couldn’t not speak for the entire 19 hours, so I made a French girl be my friend against her will. Imagine a crying English girl talking at you about how much she loves Colombia for the entire duration of a hella-long bus ride. FUN.

How to Meet Travellers

Oh my god, when did I go back to my introverted ways? Suddenly, I cannot remember how to make friends.

What am I supposed to say to them?

Is it ok to just walk up to people and be like, “hey”?

Am I too annoying to be a quality hostel hang?

Should I just shut up and be alone for a bit?

I used to be super sure of myself, and I was proper boss at collecting mates; within an hour or two of arriving at a new place, I was BFF with everyone staying there. But now, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

When I arrived at the first hostel of my trip to the Colombian coast I spent my afternoon wandering around Santa Marta feeling a bit weird and sorry for myself.

I mean, I fully panicked about being a solo loser, which, for the writer of a blog about solo travel, is frankly ridiculous.

In my desperation for pals I perched on a bench with an old Colombian man and talked Spanish at him until he eventually wandered off because I’m basic and boring in Spanish (and potentially in English, too). Eugh.

What is a Budget for Backpackers!?

I have fallen right back into spending what the fuck I want. As I write this, I’m in a hostel that has a tab system and I couldn’t tell you to the nearest £100 how much I’ve spent in the last four days.

I’ve eaten out for every single meal (this includes breakfast as I’ve been too hungover to get up for the free one at my hostel), and I can’t remember when I was last without a gin. This is not the correct attitude of someone that has no money in their bank account.

My behaviour is a total throwback to when I blew £1,500 of my £4,000 travel budget in three weeks in Buenos Aires at the very beginning of my time Backpacking South America. I run around like I’m a secret millionaire, but the sad fact of the matter is that I’m not even a thousandaire.

Embarrassing fact: I haven’t checked my credit card balance in six months. Probably it’s fine*.

*it was not fine.

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